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I would like to express my thanks to you, Senator Thurmond

and to all the members of this distinguished Committee, for the

opportunity to appear before you in support of Senate Joint Resolution 199

to amend the Constitution of the United States in order to restore the

freedom of our citizens to join in voluntary prayer in public schools

and in other public institutions.

The first amendment to the Constitution was drafted by a

Virginian, James Madison. He, and other framers of our Constitution

realized the oppression that had resulted in Europe and in the Colonies

when the secular state chose to support one religious sect to the

exclusion of others.

My ancestors arrived in Virginia from England during several decades beginning at Jamestown in 1619. Originally they were Anglicans. When some become Baptists in the eighteenth century they resisted paying

taxes to support the salaries of Anglican clergymen and the maintenance

of Anglican Church buildings. The Anglican church in Virginia was the established church and my Baptist ancestors were deprived by the state of certain civil liberties because they were religious dissenters.

My forebears along with James Madison, other Virginians, and

colonists from other states were determined that the Congress of the

United States would not have the power to establish a federal church, or to restrict the religious freedom of any of our citizens.

As their representatives in the Senate wrestled with the matter, one draft of the First Amendment used this language:

"Congress shall make no law establishing articles

of faith or mode of worship, or prohibiting the free

exercise of religion."

Later both houses of Congress settled on a simpler


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

To them the meaning was clear. The federal government could

not have the power to prefer one sect over another as was the case in

Europe, and the federal government could not interfere with anyone's

right to worship as he or she saw fit.

The same Congress which proposed the first amendment had a

chaplain, opened its proceedings each day with prayer, authorized

the printing of Bibles out of the public treasury, and affirmed a

reliance on "divine providence."

We often hear of the "constitutionally mandated separation

of church and state." Of course, as you know, that phrase appears

nowhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. It was, in fact,

a phrase used in a letter by Thomas Jefferson sent in 1802 to the

Danbury Baptist Association, which had aroused his ire by criticism

of one of his policies.

When Jefferson desired to clarify his position three years

later in his second inaugural address there was no mention of "separation

of church and state." Instead he used these words:

"In matters of religion I have considered that its free

exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of

the central government. I have therefore undertaken on no occasion

to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it (i.e. the central

government) but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under

the direction and discipline of the church or state authorities."

We do find this phrase in the constitution of another

nation, however, "The state shall be separate from the church, and

the church from the school." Those words are not in the Constitution

of the United States, but that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

an atheistic nation sworn to the destruction of the United States of


The founders of this nation, to paraphrase the words of

Supreme Court Justice Douglas in Zorach v Clauson, "were a religious people whose institutions presupposed the existence of a Supreme Being."

In fact, from the first settlement on these shores in 1607 to the founding of a nation in the late Eighteenth Century, until 1962,

there existed throughout our national and local life a profound belief

in God, in the efficacy of private and public prayer, and in a shared

morality based on the teachings of the old and New Testament.


was there to be separation from our public life of God, of prayer, of

Judeo-Christian moral values.

From 1962 until the present, a small minority has forced through the Federal Court system a tortured view of the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment which bears no resemblance

to the views of the founding fathers of this nation nor to the past

three hundred and seventy five years of our history and custom.

During the past twenty years, successive court decisions

on the establishment clause have so egregiously departed from clearly defined norms of constitutional interpretation that Senator Daniel Moynihan termed these decisions "an intellectual scandal."

By 1982, under the incessant hammering by groups such as

the American Civil Liberties Union, a group formed 62 years ago to

defend Bolsheviks, religious freedom is no longer considered a paramount

freedom but has become restricted and proscribed by successive court


We have only to consider a few examples to understand the

enormity of the problem:

(1) The University of Missouri provided at public expense accommodation for student groups advocating communism and homosexuality. The University denied similar accommodation to Christian students. The Federal District Court judge in the case agreed with the University and ruled that under the Constitution the freedom of religion was a restricted right. Fortunately, even the Supreme Court could not accept that reasoning and ordered the accommodation of the Christian student group. (2) In my home community I was shocked to find the state

Yet within two weeks the high court refused to overturn the

ruling in the Nederland, New York case which denied the right of high

school students to be accommodated for voluntary religious activities after school, even though all other volunteer student clubs were

accommodated by the school.

run community college system proposed religious guidelines which forbade

students to speak of their religion on campus and which forced students

to submit all religious materials for prior restraint and censorship

before they would be allowed to distribute such literature voluntarily

on their school campus.

(3) in Florida, and in many other states, Federal Courts

have ruled that observances of Christmas, Hanakkah, or Easter are


But worse than this, a federal court in a Florida case,

Chamberlin v Dade County Board of Public Instruction 377 US 402,

84 S.Ct. 272, has ruled that the showing of films depicting various

religious happenings in the history of our nation were unconstitutional. In short, in Florida the students could not view the landing at Jamestown because a cross was planted there; the first Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims

in Massachusetts because they thanked God; George Washington kneeling at prayer at Valley Forge; or the Virginia patriots praying at Bruton Parish Church. (See ruling from Florida Commissioner of Education, Oct. 25, 1977)

(4). Last Christmas, Pawtucket, Rhode Island was forced by

federal court order to remove a Christmas manger scene which had been

a time-honored holiday observance there.

(5) In Roanoke, Virginia the Gideons International, who place

free Bibles in the nation's hotel rooms, were prohibited by court order

from giving free Bibles to school children.

(6) And in the ultimate judicial absurdity the State of North Carolina was prohibited from printing on highway maps a simple non sectarian prayer dealing with safety for drivers on the state's


But with these rulings has come confusion. The Supreme Court opens its session with the phrase, "God save this honorable court." Yet that act would be unconstitutional if said by a school principal.

The Supreme Court has the Ten Commandments engraved on the

walls of its chambers, yet the Supreme Court has ruled that the placement

of the Ten Commandments on school walls is unconstitutional when it takes

place in Kentucky.

The Chief of Justice of the Supreme Court holds a Bible for

the swearing in of the President of the United States, yet it is

unconstitutional for school teachers to read from the Bible in class.

The President of the United States designates a holiday for

thanksgiving to God, yet no school child could thank God on that day

if school were in session.

The Congress and the President designate a day of prayer each

year, yet the schools cannot give notice of such a joint action of the

Legislative and Executive Branches of Government.

Now the courts have begun to reach out and challenge the

right of the two houses of Congress to hire chaplains and to open their

sessions with prayer.

When my father, A. Willis Robertson, was a member of this

distinguished body, he met with various colleagues every Wednesday morning in the Senate Dining Room to read the Bible and pray. This

to him was the highlight of his week.

The fellowship and prayer with

Senators from both sides of the aisle was a great strength to him and

to those Senators with whom he met.

I want to assure this committee, that if the recent Supreme

Court decisions are constitutionally sound, then the Senate prayer

breakfasts are unconstitutional. But if Senators have the privilege

of praying and reading the Bible on government property

and surely

they do

then little school children should be given the same privilege.

Thomas Jefferson warned us, "you seem to consider the judges as

the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions

a very dangerous

doctrine indeed, and one that would place us under the despotism of an


President Abraham Lincoln told us, "If the policy of the government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be

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